Hi Madison Bikes Community, I'm Steph! I am a new member of the Madison Bikes Board, an avid cyclist and coffee drinker. I will be contributing to the Madison Bikes blog on a weekly basis to provide a voice of bike-related encouragement, insight, and amusement. While I am not a bike expert by any means, I am obsessed with all things bike-related and look forward to sharing my thoughts on a new topic with you each week!
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked: "What is your favorite bike?". I spent a moment considering this question. Naturally, my initial thought was to say that I love all of my bikes equally. My second thought was that I am not a parent and the question was about bikes, not children, therefore I was free to tell the truth. My answer was that my favorite bike was the one I grew up riding as a child—my Trek Singletrack 820.
I remember going to the local bike shop in Racine as a child and test riding it in tight circles around the store's small parking lot. I remember thinking that the price of $325 was exorbitant and that my bike was going to make the neighbor kids so jealous. Don't even get me started on the color! Swoon!
This bike became more than a form of transportation for me. It was freedom. It fostered my independence and took me on endless adventures with friends. I developed a passion for biking as a child that I have (obviously) carried into adulthood. More now than ever, I realize that if I didn't have such a privileged childhood, I would not have fostered such a love of biking.
Over the weekend, I volunteered at an annual bike giveaway organized by Free Bikes 4 Kidz. It was as heart-warming as it was a well-organized event. FB4K was able to give away 1,400 free, refurbished bikes to Madison-area children who had been pre-registered for a bicycle. If you have noticed a recent influx of children biking around with BIG grins on their faces, that's why. I'm hopeful these children will have the opportunity to foster a passion for biking the way that I did. However, a lot of the children at the FB4K events are less privileged than I was as a child. I lived in a quiet, suburban cul-de-sac with bike paths nearby. I never felt unsafe biking around my neighborhood.
In Madison, streets and bike paths our children are biking on need to be designed and maintained in a way that will enable them feel comfortable enough to foster such a passion. If these children (or their parents/guardians) do not feel comfortable biking in their neighborhoods, they may be less likely to carry a joy for biking into adulthood. As a child, one scary experience while learning how to be a regular biker is all it takes to put the kibosh on positive perceptions of biking.
On a related note, Bike Fitchburg, Wisconsin Bike Fed, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and the NHTSA are organizing a free 'Teach the Trainer' bike safety workshop in Madison on April 27th. Please consider signing up!
Happy biking and tailwinds!
PS: If you have a spare eight minutes on your hands, I highly recommend watching this video of a dad and daughter going bikepacking together. It made me almost want to have a child of my own, for like five minutes.